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A summer filled with space exploration

This summer, Leiden, The Hague, Noordwijk and Delft will be hosting the ‘Sizzling Summer of Space’. To tie in with the international Space Studies Programme, all kinds of activities on space exploration are being organised, from a film evening to a Science Café and an exhibition of satellites to the Leiden in Space day.

Tanja Masson-Zwaan is a lecturer and researcher at the Institute for Air and Space Law at Leiden University. She was one of the initiators of the Sizzling Summer of Space that will be taking place this summer. 'We started working on the move of the Space Studies Programme (SSP) to the Netherlands five years ago.' This summer school of the International Space University (ISU) will be organised every year for young professionals, PhD candidates and master's students who are involved in space exploration. ‘And as it will be held in Leiden this summer, we are taking the opportunity to draw space exploration to the attention of the general public.' 

Integral part of space exploration

Masson-Zwaan will be playing a major role as a lecturer in this year's Space Studies Programme, together with her colleagues Dimitra Stefoudi and Neta Palkovitz : they will be giving a range of lectures, organising department activities and providing  introductions during team projects on the theme of policy and law in space exploration. ‘Law is an integral part of every space project, but not everyone is aware of that. My aim with the summer school is to bring this issue to everyone's attention.' Naturally, Leiden astronomers will also be involved in organising different aspects of the programme. And many of the participants will be Leiden alumni, students and researchers.'

Meteorites and the moon rover

Up until August, the summer will be sizzling with events on space exploration. Some will be both for the participants in the summer school and also for other interested parties, while others will be aimed more at the general public. On 19 August, for example, there will be the Leiden Space Day with activities in the Leiden Observatory, the Boerhaave Museum and the Leiden Instrument-makers' school. Masson-Zwaan: ‘It will be a great day for children; admiring moonstones in the Boerhaave Museum, a meterorite exhibition and even a demonstration of a moon rover - a vehicle for carrying out research on the Moon.' And on 4 July during the summer school, American Professor of Space Exploration John Logsdon will give a public lecure on space exploration under Kennedy and Nixon, and the race to put a man on the moon.  

Science Café about space

Masson-Zwaan will give a talk at the Science Café in The Hague on 5 July, also on the theme of space, of course. 'Many people don't even realise that space law actually exists, but the UN has been working on safeguarding the peaceful use of space since as early as the first Sputnik mission in 1957,' Masson-Zwaan explains. A range of current themes in space law will be considered at the Science Café. 'Space is becoming ever fuller with rubbish, or space debris as we call it. Worn-out satellites, broken parts of a space station - right now they're all simply released into space. But if that piece of waste collides with your satellite, who is responsible for the damage?'

The law in space

She also raises a subject that is currently a hot topic in her field: mining in space. Masson-Zwaan: ‘Nobody is allowed to claim a heavenly body. But what about the raw materials that you might be able to extract from it?  Currently, there are al kinds of companies working on ways of mining platinum, for example, on a planet. They want to know where they stand, whether their investments are going to come to nothing. 'These are complex, present-day legal questions. Our Leiden Insitute plays an active role in stimulating this discussion and through our work we try to contribute to answering these questions.’

Space close at hand

Masson-Zwaan hopes that a lot of people will visit the activities this summer. 'Space exploration always appeals to the imagination, but it is also a very important topic. Whether you are using your smartphone, or navigating a route using a satnav, these are things where space exploration has played - or is still playing - a role.'  

The Sizzling Summer of Space will be taking place in Leiden, The Hague, Noordwijk and Delft this summer from April to August. You can find a summary of all the activities on the website www.sizzlingsummerofspace.nl. Further details and information on how to register for the Science Café on space with Tanja Masson-Zwaan and other speakers on 5 July are availble via the site of the Science Café in The Hague: sciencecafedenhaag.nl.

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